By Brian M. Watson
PUNTA SAN CARLOS, Mexico--Punta San Carlos is reputed to offer some of the best winds and easiest-riding waves southwest of the Pecos. One acquaintance, professional windsurfer Kevin McGillivray (a.k.a. KMac), had been raving about PSC for years. Kevin has been assisting fellow professionals, Matt Pritchard and Wyatt Miller, in their various Baja windsurfing boot-camps, as well as hosting his own, for years. He is a seasoned Baja traveler and windsurfer.
The drive is nerve-wracking, and a bit grueling. It’s about 300 miles south of the U.S./Mexico border, with 260 of them over well-paved Mexico 1. While the paved highway offers its own challenges (Pucker-factor-plus passing of trucks on two-lane highway, hazardous shoulders that abruptly slope away from the road, various government checkpoints, etc.), it’s relatively nice.
The 60-kilometer dirt road that veers off toward PSC, however, is not for the “vehicularly” ill-prepared. While you don’t need a 4x4 during the driest seasons, you do need something with more than average passenger-car underside clearance. You’ll also want a good spare tire … or two, just in case.
Ultimately, what pushed me toward the decision to make the trip was the fact that a windsurfing buddy, Rob D., was heading down during the week that KMac and Matt Pritchard were putting on clinics. In addition, wave and wind forecasts called for excellent conditions. Rob and I decided to caravan.
As we entered Mexico by way of Tijuana, we were delayed briefly in the secondary inspection area, while a young Mexican government worker looked through a few of our things before waving us through. At 7:30 a.m. we were in a different country with a direct heading for PSC.
It had been 25-plus years since I’d been south of Tijuana. As we drove past places like Baja Malibu, K-38, and Salsipuedes, memories of stories told by high school surf buddies came back to me. Back in the 1970’s, many of my surf pals boasted of great, uncrowded surf along that stretch of Baja. I marveled at the many great point- and beach-break setups that seemed to be around every corner. Unridden waves were the rule, rather than the exception.
With one stop for gas at a state-owned Pemex station (25% less expensive than L.A. stations), and another in El Rosario (Closest town to PSC) for additional beer and provisions, we arrived at the dirt-road entrance to PSC. The sign informed us that we had 60 kilometers to go. Suffice it to say that these weren’t the easiest miles of the trip. The road is comprised of a lot of hard washboard surface, 30% small rocks, 1% larger rocks, and very fine dust. At times the ride was rough enough to jar your fillings loose; at others you’d just kind of float on a cloud of dust, thereby allowing your fillings to re-seat themselves
After making a few fauna-photo/nature stops along the way, we were down at PSC by around 3:00 PM on Monday. Unfortunately for us, there was a rather thick cloud cover over us, and no sailable wind. (I could hear it now, “You really missed it; you should have been here yesterday.” This is the age-old surfers’ taunt, naturally picked up by windsurfers.). It was actually drizzling out. This was unwelcome because it set up perfect conditions for the dust to stick to our cars, etc. The dust didn’t actually require help there. It did well on its own. Conditions are, however, subject to change. (Fortunately they did, big-time, and in no time.)
We set up camp in the nice, flat area on the bluffs. While there is no running water available, there are outhouses provided by folks at the SoloSports windsurfing/kite-boarding compound. SoloSports’ facilities sit on the bluffs, inland from a cool rock formation called “The Island”. SoloSports is owned and operated by Kevin Trejo.
The facility provides a relatively cushy compound for wind-warriors who pay for the “whole enchilada” SoloSports packages. With them, you get many comforts of home: food, beer, sports equipment, hot showers, lounges, and deluxe wind-protected tents. SoloSports patrons have travel choices available, including fly-ins and travel from the border via luxury vans.
That’s the way the “other half” lives. My half lived on the bluffs, east of SoloSports, where we paid $5 per day to SoloSports for camping. Very rustic, but with outhouses provided just over 100 paces away.
There was also a crew from the San Francisco Bay area that chose to “rough-it” in the camping area. Kevin Kan, owner of Sunset Sailboards, and noted NorCal shredder, was there with a few of his fellow Team Dawg windsurfers. Team Dawg is: Kevin K., Aaron (The Human Catapult) Vieira, Juan Vargas, and their friend Lucas. These guys were throwing some great freestyle moves (Spocks, Goiters, and other strangely named tricks) out there, jumping, along with tearing up some great waves.
Wind/wave conditions: Starting Tuesday, PSC presented us with lots of logo-high (10-foot faces or so) waves with winds in excess of 30 mph. By the early afternoon Rob and I had already rigged our smallest sails with our smallest boards (Meaning: strong winds).
Each of the six days of sailing were similar. Rig a small sail in the late morning for the first go-out. Get out by noon and eat lunch or late breakfast. Rig a smaller sail, generally the smallest (4.2M and 4.0M for Rob and I, respectively) and get ready for the afternoon session.
So, after feeding my head and working over my body for a week, we broke camp Monday morning and pushed hard for the border. We didn’t want to be lost in Tijuana after the sun went down.
Thankfully, seasoned Baja veteran, Rob D., got us through Tijuana and on the road to the U.S. without a hitch. We cut it very close. We were in line to cross back to the U.S. by roughly 6:45 PM, with 30 minutes of daylight to spare. Crazy gringos.
All in all, it was a great Baja adventure. Hasta luego.
-- Images show Kevin McGillivray (top), Kevin Kan, sign at entry of Punta San Carlos, and Brian M. Watson plucking his guitar between windsurfing sessions. Credit: Brian M. Watson